RAWALPINDI: The opening of new Islamabad International Airport on Wednesday was delayed once again but this time at the eleventh hour when the operational preparedness was complete and new flight schedule had been announced through the media.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the facility would now become operational on May 3 as prime minister’s adviser on aviation Sardar Mehtab Ahmed wanted more system and equipment testing to achieve complete satisfaction.
The new airport, built at a cost of Rs105 billion, was earlier scheduled to become operational on April 20.
Airport is capable of handling nine million passengers and 50,000 tonnes of cargo every year in its first phase
Mr Ahmed expressed his satisfaction during an inspection of the airport on Wednesday, according to a spokesman for the adviser.
“The state-of-the-art system and equipment need to be tested and trialed further to bring it to the level of international standards,” the spokesman said, adding: “Opening of the new airport was rescheduled to do more tests and trials in order to improve reliability and efficiency of systems.”
After the rescheduling announcement, a fresh Notam (notice to airmen) was issued by the CAA headquarters, saying “the airport will be operational on May 3, 2018”.
The surprising announcement of rescheduling was made at a press briefing at the new facility by Nadir Shafi Dar, CAA’s director planning, and Syed Aamir Mehmood, director media coordination of the CAA.
Briefing journalists about features and other facilities at the new airport, Mr Mehmood said the airport was capable of handling nine million passengers and 50,000 tonnes of cargo every year in its first phase. After its expansion, it would be able to serve up to 25m passengers a year by 2025, he added.
“The new airport will become the country’s hub and boost its business and economy. It is expected to provide multiple direct and indirect jobs and reap enormous economic benefits for the country,” he said, adding that the successful completion of the airport reflected the ability of the CAA to build a world class airport that had become a pride of the country.
Metro and private transport will be providing round-the-clock services for public convenience.
Mr Mehmood said it took almost 11 years to build the new airport, adding that its 190,370-square-metre four-level passenger terminal building had been designed to facilitate passengers and stakeholders.
In reply to a question about security of the airport, he said that since the new airport was located in two districts — Attock and Rawalpindi — the issue of responsibility of police security had been taken up with the Punjab home department to make a decision which city would handle the security.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had last Friday paid a surprise visit to the new airport and inspected the terminal building and other facilities and sought a report on the shortcomings in two days.
The prime minister also visited the domestic arrival lounge and issued some instructions to aviation secretary Irfan Elahi after noticing some serious flaws. He inquired about the cafeteria for airport employees, including those of the Airport Security Force, CAA and airlines. He inquired about the arrangements to restrict visitors from approaching the entrance of passengers’ arrival lounge after noticing that there was no fence to prevent the visitors.
Non-availability of flight kitchen at the new airport has been a major shortcoming as the Pakistan International Airlines management has to transport thousands of meals from Benazir Bhutto International Airport’s flight kitchen to the new airport by catering trucks every day.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018